Ed Brubaker is my favourite comic book author, and perhaps in contention for my favourite author across all mediums. Whenever I see his titles on the store shelf, I purchase them sight unseen. The last series he did, Fatale, with frequent collaborator, Sean Phillips, was a favourite. Blending in noir with mystery and horror was a joy to read.
With Fade Out, he returns to the noir genre with a murder mystery. Gone are the fantastical and horror elements of Fatale. Instead, it’s a story about 1940s Hollywood centered around a murder of a hot leading actress. The story mostly follows a young script writer, named Charlie Parish, who wakes up one morning and discovers the body of the actress his hotel room after a night of partying. His memory is hazy and fragmented and he doesn’t remember how he got there. He covers up his tracks and it’s soon revealed that a bigger cover up may be going on; this one murder may be tied to the larger Hollywood murder. But… we don’t yet know. Along the way, we meet a number of other dubious characters including a hotheaded German director, a blacklisted film writer, a brute that serves as the head of security/muscles of the movie studio and an assortment of other colourful characters.
Admittedly, when the first volume of Fade Out was released earlier last year, maybe because of the hype I had in Brubaker, but I felt a bit let down. Not that the story wasn’t captivating, but it just didn’t grab me the way that Fatale did. It felt like just a straight up murder mystery. However, having read the second volume (that was originally released in October of last year), the story and the intrigue has improved. The first volume was more focused on setting the stage, however, it lacked a real hook. The second volume expands that world by introducing interesting peripheral key players and exploring more of what appears to be the seedy side of Hollywood. This is the hook that it was missing in the first volume.
Story aside, together with the art of Sean Phillips, they’ve successfully crafted the smoky and dark atmosphere of the 1940s. At least, it’s the 1940s that one would expect depicted in a current day movie of that era.
Despite it not being my favourite Brubaker story (at least so far) it’s hard to not recommend his work. He is still a great writer and this is still an interesting story. So if you’re down for a good murder mystery, the Fade Out has you covered. Until next time, later geeks!